New figures appear to clarify the workforce challenge facing the global wind industry with nearly 600,000 technicians needed during the next five years – with more than 240,000 of these roles new recruits to the industry.
The Global Wind Organisation (GWO) and Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) have published their latest joint report forecasting the numbers of wind technicians required to construct, install, operate, and maintain (C&I and O&M) the anticipated global wind fleet up to 2027. This report highlights the opportunities for local and national governments to leverage renewable energy expansion to foster job, training and reskilling opportunities and create a skilled workforce for the energy transition.
The Global Wind Workforce Outlook 2023-2027 sets out that over 574,000 technicians will be required for C&I and O&M by 2027, but to keep pace with this growth, almost 43% of them will be new to the industry, joining from an education and recruitment pipeline or transferring from other sectors, such as offshore oil and gas.
Annual wind energy installations are expected to double from 78 GW in 2022 to 155 GW in 2027, bringing the total wind capacity worldwide to more than 1,500 GW in just five years. Driven by technology innovation and the fast-growing offshore wind market, the Outlook predicts a 17% rise in the number of wind technicians required for C&I and O&M over the five-year forecast period.
That growth would require an extra 84,600 technicians to support the expansion of wind power. However, with a typical 6% attrition rate the wind industry would also need to recruit an additional 159,200 people to replace the technicians expected to naturally exit the wind industry between 2023 to 2027.
The need to recruit the extra 243,800 new technicians over the next five years suggests a raft of opportunities for new talent to enter from full-time education and transition from other sectors, including from the conventional sector. This in turn highlights the wind sector’s role in supporting a just and equitable energy transition away from fossil fuels. As a result, the Global Wind Workforce Outlook 2023-2027 highlights an urgent need for faster growth in safety and technical training capacity to meet the anticipated supply chain gaps.
Jakob Lau Holst, CEO of Global Wind Organisation says “Workforce development is top of mind for policymakers, industry associations and employers. The GWO/GWEC Global Wind Workforce Outlook demonstrates not just how many people will be needed for the forecast installation and maintenance of the world’s wind fleet but emphasises how many of these will be new arrivals to the sector. This underlines the need for a renewed focus on entry level skills that match the needs of employers and complements the existing capabilities people bring from other sectors and education systems.”
Ben Backwell, CEO of GWEC adds: “A strong workforce and healthy supply chain will be crucial to the colossal growth of wind capacity in this decade. It is vital that the growing workforce is provided with the tools to train properly, with an approach that puts health and safety at the heart of industry growth. GWEC is delighted to present the Global Wind Workforce Outlook 2023-2027 alongside the Global Wind Organisation. The report sets out how to maintain a safe and healthy work environment and scale up training capacity to meet the demands of a 1.5C-compliant pipeline of wind energy projects around the world. Without a skilled and sustainable workforce for wind and renewable energy, the energy transition will not materialise in time.”
The Outlook highlights onshore and offshore wind growth and workforce needs in 10 countries in particular: Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Japan, Kenya, South Korea and the USA. The high wind power ambitions of these countries must be reinforced by a strong culture of health and safety and a trained workforce. This will be needed to ensure that wind power can continue to support climate and energy targets, and contribute to modern and sustainable economies around the world.
Some key insights from the report are summarised below in a Q&A format:
HOW MANY WIND TECHNICIANS WILL REQUIRE STANDARDISED TRAINING FOR THE CONSTRUCTION AND INSTALLATION, AND OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE GLOBAL WIND FLEET?
By the end of 2027, the worldwide wind fleet will be roughly 1,581GW, more than double the level before the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the number of wind technicians that will require industry training will increase 17% from 489,600 in 2022 to 574,200 in 2027. The number of new wind technicians is expected to increase by 48,800 on average per year from 2023 to 2027.
WHAT IS THE GAP BETWEEN CURRENT LEVELS OF GWO TRAINING AVAILABLE AND THE LEVELS REQUIRED TO TRAIN THE FORECASTED WORKFORCE?
At the end of 2022, 145,000 technicians (or 30% of the estimated workforce) already held at least one valid certificate from GWO’s Basic Safety Training (BST) Standard. This means that from 2023 to 2027 an additional 429,200 technicians will need wind industry training. More than 80% of these technicians will be required in 10 countries: Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Japan, Kenya, South Korea and USA.
WHERE ARE THE BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES FOR EDUCATORS AND TRAINING PROVIDERS TO ENHANCE WIND WORKFORCE SAFETY VIA GWO TRAINING?
Total wind technician workforce will grow most rapidly offshore (79% higher in 2027 against 2022) compared to onshore (12% higher in 2027 against 2022). By 2027, 87% of the technicians will be working onshore, mostly (and increasingly) within the operation & management segment.
DOES THIS FORECAST ENCOMPASS ALL WORKFORCE NEEDS IN THE WIND SECTOR?
The model used for this annual Outlook focuses on the construction, installation (C&I), operation and maintenance (O&M) segments of wind farms. It does not include calculations of workforce needs in other segments of the project lifecycle, such as research and development, procurement, manufacturing (the most labour-intensive segment in certain markets), transport and logistics, decommissioning and repowering, etc.